General Chemistry/Predicting Chemical Reactions

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Types of Reactions

There are several guidelines that can help you predict what kind of chemical reaction will occur between a mixture of chemicals.

However, not all elements will react with each other. To better predict a chemical reaction, knowledge of the reactivity series is needed.

Reactivity

When combining two chemicals, a single- or double-replacement reaction doesn't always happen. This can be explained by a list known as the reactivity series, which lists elements in order of reactivity. The higher on the list an element is, the more elements it can replace in a single- or double-replacement reaction. When deciding if a replacement reaction will occur, look up the two elements in question. The higher one will replace the lower one.

Elements at the very top of the series are so reactive that they can replace hydrogen from water. This explains the explosive reaction between sodium and water:

${\displaystyle 2{\hbox{Na}}_{(s)}+2{\hbox{H}}_{2}{\hbox{O}}_{(l)}\to 2{\hbox{NaOH}}_{(aq)}+{\hbox{H}}_{2(g)}}$

Elements in the middle of the list will react with acids (but not water) to produce a salt and hydrogen gas. Elements at the bottom of the list are mostly nonreactive.

Elements near the top of the list will corrode (rust, tarnish, etc.) in oxygen much faster than those at the bottom of the list.

The Reactivity Series

• Red: elements that react with water and acids to form hydrogen gas, and with oxygen.
• Orange: elements that react very slowly with water but strongly with acids.
• Yellow: elements that react with acid to form hydrogen gas, and with oxygen.
• Grey: elements that react with oxygen (tarnish).
• White: elements that are often found pure; relatively nonreactive.

Most Reactive

 Cs K Na Li Sr Ca Rb Ba Mg Al (C) Mn Zn Cr Fe Cd Co Ni Sn Pb (H2) Sb Bi Cu Hg Ag Pt Au

Least Reactive